The commonwealth of Virginia announced today that it will take actions to ensure the protection of migratory birds in the face of the Trump administration’s abandonment of enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The state announced that the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) will begin a process to promulgate state-wide regulations to establish a permitting process to minimize the incidental take of migratory birds by commercial, industrial and construction projects. Incidental take of migratory birds by such industrial activities had previously been regulated under the federal MBTA, but the Trump administration issued a legal opinion in 2017 reinterpreting the federal law as applying only to intentional hunting, and abandoned enforcement of the law against industrial activities that killed birds.
In addition to announcing the proposed permitting program for migratory bird incidental take, the state announced actions to mitigate for the loss of habitat for migratory shorebirds arising from the Hampton Roads tunnel project, including restoration of potential nesting habitat on Rip Raps Island, an artificial island near the project and accelerating investigation of creation of further habitat on a newly-created artificial island.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO, issued the following statement:
“We commend the governor and his leadership for recognizing the need to boost protection of migratory birds in the wake of the Trump administration’s reckless and irresponsible elimination of long-standing federal protections from incidental take. Virginia is leading the way to create a model for how states can step up to ensure that take of migratory birds by industrial activities is avoided, minimized and mitigated.
“We are also encouraged that the state is proposing conservation measures to address the loss of migratory bird habitat caused by the Hampton Roads tunnel project. Such action is urgently needed. Since the 1970s, 3 billion birds on this continent have perished; we can’t afford to lose more because the needs of birds were ignored by this project.”